Senate panel pushing CIA to release report on 9/11 attacks
Bill would compel agency to make findings public
WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of senators is pushing legislation that would force the CIA to release an inspector general's report on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The CIA has spent more than 20 months weighing requests under the Freedom of Information Act for its internal investigation of the attacks, but the agency has yet to release any portion of it. It is the only federal agency involved in counterterrorism operations that has not made at least a version of its internal Sept. 11 investigation public.
Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, and two other intelligence committee leaders -- Jay Rockefeller, chairman and Democrat of West Virginia, and senior Republican Kit Bond of Missouri -- are pushing legislation that would require the agency to declassify the executive summary of the review within one month and submit a report to Congress explaining why any material was withheld.
The provision has been approved by the Senate twice but never made it into law.
Wyden said he is also considering whether to link the report's release to his acceptance of President Bush's nominations for national security positions.
"It's amazing the efforts the administration is going to to stonewall this," Wyden said. "The American people have a right to know what the Central Intelligence Agency was doing in those critical months before 9/11. . . . I am going to bulldog this until the public gets it."
The inspector general's report, completed in June 2005, examined the responsibility of individuals at the CIA before and after the attacks. Other agencies examined structural problems within their organizations.
Wyden, who has read the classified report several times, would not offer any details on its findings or the conversations he has had with the CIA's director, Michael V. Hayden; its former director, Porter Goss; and the former director of National Intelligence, John Negroponte.
But he did say that protecting individuals from embarrassment is not a legitimate reason for keeping the report's contents from public review. He also said that he believed the decision to classify the report has nothing to do with national security, but rather political security.
Hayden declined to be interviewed about the report. His spokesman, Mark Mansfield, said the CIA director wants the agency to learn from any mistakes but doesn't want to dwell on them.
"Given the formidable national security challenges our nation faces, now and down the road, General Hayden believes it is essential for the agency to move forward," Mansfield said. "That's where our emphasis needs to be."
The CIA's actions prior to Sept. 11 have received renewed attention with the release of a memoir by the agency's former director, George Tenet. Critics say he should have done more to warn Bush about the Al Qaeda threat.
Bond said some intelligence officials have dismissed the inspector general's report as "ancient history," which he doesn't accept. He said the report has information that would be useful to the public.
"We have no desire to embarrass or throw cold water on the enthusiasm of the great men and women of the CIA, but let's just take a clear and open look at what the IG found and see if we have all of those problems corrected," Bond said.